Doing research the summer between my first and second years of medical school, I was filled with a competitive spirit to get as much research done as possible. I wasn’t sure what field I wanted to go into at that time, but I knew that more research would be better. There was also an unwritten sentiment that research projects were to be the efforts of one medical student. Effectively, my colleagues and I experienced an anti-collaboration culture. This was largely influenced on the way our funding was secured for the summer. Funding was only granted for one student per project. Thus, each student had to have her or his own project. I remember a friend of my saying, “I don’t want anyone else on this paper. Just my name and the attending’s.” After burying my head that year into individualistic research, one of the most influential mentors I have had opened my perspective. We were eating breakfast at the Southeastern American Urological Association Meeting in Orlando, Florida. We had just attended a poster session on a smorgasbord of topics that didn’t fit well into any other category. He was advising me to look back through the abstracts from that session, find topics that might require a greater sample size to make the project more suitable for publication, and reach out to the presenter to gauge their interest in potential collaboration.
No collaborations came to fruition from those efforts, but he had instilled in me the spirit of collaboration in research. This completely revolutionized the way that I did research moving forward. The next project I started, instead of being the only student collecting data, I realized that I could bring a fellow medical student on board and divide up the data collection. We were then doing half the work at double the pace. Of course, we had to spend some time discussing who would be first author and ensuring that the contributions were equitable between us. This one experience ushered in a new mentality for me. The tide of success raises all boats. Since this project, I have continued collaboration with numerous medical students, residents, and attendings. This has allowed for exponential growth of my research activity and productivity and helped yield success for all parties involved. Seek out opportunities to collaborate with your peers and see your research output accelerate.
Other ways to maximize research on your residency application:
Are you wanting to increase your research volume as a medical student? Consider collaborating with peers for a win-win situation.